The Church Street Brewing Company
is likely not the first brewery mentioned when you ask about Chicago area purveyors of fine suds. Revolution, Half Acre, Pipeworks – these breweries and their hoppy brews enjoy good reputations and are often in the Chicagoland beer limelight. But Church Street, in suburban Itasca, has been grabbing my attention the past couple of years on treks to Chicago area liquor stores. This is mainly because A) the brewery opened in 2012 and B) I noticed that their take on my beloved helles is available year-round. As their website says, brewmaster Joe Gregor's "true love lies in German lagers".
Church Street does not join Metropolitan in the ranks of pure lager breweries or brew only German styles but their roster is weighted towards those styles. And I am unsure if I even have any of their helles left so today, which is apparently something called National Lager Day, I am reviewing their pils. Considering the brewmaster's predilections and all of the German ingredients in it, I opened my bottles thinking that Continental Lager would be a German pils and not a Czech one.
Continental Lager pours a lovely straw color that is much brighter than my photo allows. (I hope my pictures will start to improve sometime soon after the solstice.) It is clear and quite effervescent. I got a HUGE foamy white head that lasted seeming forever. Obviously I poured the bier poorly as the crown was so large, I had to wait for it to settle. Once it did and I was able to fill the glass further, I was left with a lovely brew that had many a bubble going up to the generous head. Why I didn't use a pilsner glass is lost on me but I'm sure this would have been an absolutely lovely bier. Even without the "proper" glass, it still looked like a beauty.
The aroma featured fresh bread astride some corn. There was a mild herbal hoppiness which I wouldn't have minded if it were a bit stronger. But, being a German pilsner, everything is a bit more restrained than in its Bohemian cousin. Lastly there was just a hint of malt sweetness and also a very mild fruitiness that was reminiscent of a Kölsch.
That malty primacy in the aroma could be tasted. Continental Lager has a light body but a big malty taste of biscuit. Herbal hop flavor was joined by a touch of spiciness that really worked well with the grain. And that light fruitiness that I caught on the nose was also present here but took on a deeper character that was like raisin. It was an odd flavor for a pilsner but it was very mild and not at all unpleasant. Just atypical. The carbonation was easily tasted and I liked the restrained bubbly dryness it added to the mix.
I liked the crisp, dry finish quite a bit. The hops really stepped up their intensity and joined with the carbonation. My glass was left with a bounty of Schaumhaftvermoegen
with webs of the stuff everywhere.
Continental Lager hit the spot. It had the requisite Teutonic restraint and even-handedness that I expect from a German pils. It was malty but not overly so; it had a nice hop flavor but it never went unchecked and instead provided balance to the overall flavor. To my taste it was akin to the Great Dane's Verruckte Stadt, a local German pils, with a slightly bigger malt backbone and the hops just a bit more vigorous while not having the brisk, spicy dryness of a Czech pilsner.
Continental Lager is 5.3% A.B.V. so, while not a session beer, it is a beer you'll want to have more than one of. Just as Led Zeppelin were "tight but loose", this beer is light but heavy. It goes down easy yet it has substantial flavor.
Junk food pairing: Steady on with the junk food. I recommend pretzels – hard or soft - with a mild cheese such as American Easy Cheese.
Labels: Beer, Church Street Brewing Company, Pilsner